The United States women’s soccer team is on its way to the World Cup semifinals – again. After a 2-1 win over host-team, France, the reigning world champions will face England for a spot in the finals. Back in the U.S., NBA free agency got off to a roaring start with marquee player, Kevin Durant, heading to the Brooklyn Nets. He will leave the Golden State Warriors.
Founding Director of UT-Austin’s Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation, Daron Roberts, says this was Durant’s year to control the market and his future. Roberts says the NBA’s version of free agency is more fluid and player-friendly than it is in other leagues, including the NFL, where contracts are more restrictive and typically provide less money.
“People also feel like the NBA is more of a dynamic sport because between any given year, i.e. LeBron James can switch jersey overnight and really create a lot of excitement in a new city,” Roberts says.
Durant, a former Texas Longhorn, will join Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan on the Brooklyn Nets team, despite heavy speculation before the announcement that Durant would move to the New York Knicks. Roberts says the impact of Durant’s move was apparent as the Nets’ previous 25-1 championship odds jumped to 18-1 in Las Vegas. Roberts says Durant will not play right away as he continues recovering from an Achilles tendon injury suffered during last month’s NBA finals.
As for the Texas basketball teams, Roberts says they will have to wait until the dust settles.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the Mavericks and the Rockets [do] and how the Spurs sift through the rest of the free agent market given the fact that there are three big names now off the board,” Roberts says.
In France, the U.S soccer team is at odds with the president over comments one member has made. Roberts says midfielder Megan Rapinoe is getting both praise and criticism for her comments during an “Eight By Eight” interview in which she said the team would not be invited to the White House if they won the World Cup.
“It’s interesting – around the Fourth of July – a lot of people really believe she symbolizes what it means to be an American,” Roberts say. “She speaks her mind, she’s a wonderful leader for her team and we’re on the cusp of seeing the women go into the semifinals and have a great chance to win.”
Roberts says the narrative surrounding Rapinoe is mixed because of the current state of political partisanship. He says those trying to silence Rapinoe should remember athletes who did more than play, like Muhammed Ali – who openly challenged the Vietnam War and his induction into the armed forces, or All-Star Curt Flood, one of the forefathers of free agency in baseball, who took the league to the Supreme Court in defense of his rights as a player.
“I always want to remind people that politics and race and sport and equality, those have always been embedded with each other,” Roberts says. “For anyone who thinks that Megan should just shut up and play soccer, that’s not what history has told us is one of the great contributions for athletes.”
Written by Geronimo Perez.